Your dream is to have a home office just for writing. After all, you want to make a living off of it. And what could make it feel more professional than to work in a special room devoted to your creative business?
Where you could write for hours every day? Where everything is perfectly organized and color coordinated? Where the design in inspired and the items are name-brand, from the chairs to the rugs to the hanging lamps?
But you currently don't have a room for a home office. In fact, you don't actually have a designated office space in your entire living area. Now you're just bummed. How the heck are you supposed to convince your condescending friends and relatives that your writing is a "real job" when you work from you bed? Or your couch? Or your kitchen table (while spoon feeding mashed carrots to a very distracted two-year-old)?
Friend, I feel you.
However, I would like to suggest that you can "professionalize" your writing space, no matter how small it may be. (And yes, I'm going to pretend that is a word until I learn different.)
"But Joanna," you say, "you don't understand just how small my living quarters are."
Let me paint you a little picture...
Last year, right about this time, I was sitting on a delightfully comfortable leather couch typing away at my keyboard. In my sister's house. Where my husband, my then-two-year-old daughter and I all shared one bedroom. As our entire living space. We ate in the dining room and hung out with the in-laws in the living room on occasion. But our living space was limited to that bedroom. That's where 90% of our available belongings sat crowded around a queen bed, a toddler bed, three dressers and a laundry basket.
I did not write in that room. My bed wasn't comfortable for sitting and writing, and there was NO way we could squeeze a writing desk, or even a comfy chair, into that space. I chose to write in the living room instead. And I literally couldn't "professionalize" my writing space. Because it wasn't mine.
Chances are you have a little more room for creative expression where you live than I did.
I now have a cute little apartment with two bedrooms and a living room I am free to decorate to my heart's desire. So while I still don't have an "office", I do have a writing space. It's called...*drumroll*...The Living Room Couch! (I know; I've gotten very creative with my writing locations.)
Whether it be a basement apartment in your parents' house or sharing a tiny dorm room with three other roommates, you can still spruce up your writing area with just a few cheap additions. Soon you will feel like you're sitting down to a "real job" every time you get ready to write. (No worries - the tightest writer budget can afford what I'm suggesting here!)
(NOTE: the links below will take you to favorite DIY blog posts or to my Pinterest home office board where you can find even more ideas, from minimalist to girl boss to rustic. Feel free to browse, mix and match ideas, and go crazy!)
1) Office Equipment Organization/Decor
There is NOTHING more home business-y than office supplies. And chances are you already have plenty of those lying scattered all over the house (or stock piled neatly in one very large, perfectly organized drawer). Now you can use them to not only write and do business but make yourself look more professional, too!
Got a hundred mismatched, bleeding pens from four years worth of scribbling furiously? Buy a $1 mug from Dollar Tree, look up a Sharpie mug DIY tutorial, and inscribe your favorite short writing quote on it. Now you have a smart and inspirational place to keep your pens! (And they're actually within reach at all times - who knew?!)
How about those seventeen beautifully bound notebooks from Christmases and birthdays that you're scared to write in 'cause you'd have to rip out half the pages? Put 'em on display! Grab a cheap shelf from Wal-Mart, some pretty odds and ends from your local thrift store, and voila! You now have an artist's showcase.
Other ideas can be for decorative purposes AND serve an organizational function, too. You can use file folders (to keep your endless story notes organized), a business calendar (this is, after all, a business), a box of organized supplies (little things get lost easily), a digital clock (so you can remember to eat lunch) - whatever makes it feel/look like an office to you.
2) Great Lighting/Aesthetics
A friend told me recently that she didn't bother trying to set up her writing space as anything special. It just didn't work for her. But the one thing that did work for her was a Pixar-style lamp and a rose in a vase. To her, that's all the inspiration she needs!
What about you? Is your writing space lit properly? Do you have any special items that make you feel creative just by looking at them?
This fix is so simple, and it works no matter where your writing space is! Pick a quality lamp that suits your preferred look (chic pink with dangling prisms for the girl boss look, or use a classy, shiny black lamp for a straight-up office look). And place it on or near your writing space.
Next, choose one or more simple items (easily obtained at second-hand stores for next to nothing) that instantly remind you of a special theme in your current genre or your WIP itself. (Maybe an old fashioned pipe for that turn-of-the-century mystery, or a lace handkerchief for a Civil War romance.)
Finally, if you're in the mood to get creative, think of something that will add splashes of color and personality to your writing area. Plain colored canvases to hang on the wall. A string of white lights draped around the bookshelf. A soft, fuzzy tiger-striped pillow to lean against on your couch. You can even bring some wildlife into your "office". A potted plant or two will look pretty, smell amazing AND enhance your health (provided you're not allergic - be careful!) Whatever makes you feel happy when you sit down to write!
3) Any books/short stories you've published/had printed
This one doesn't need much explaining. Want to be a professional? You ARE one! Now show off a little. Trust me - it's not going to make you look pompous to have your works on display. It will look like you're proud of what you've accomplished and will be an excellent conversation piece. Who knows? You may even sell another copy of your most recent book! It can be hard copies displayed on a floating shelf, or a 5-star review in a frame on the wall, or maybe a series lined up between heirloom-like book ends on your desk.
Even if all you've done is cheesy serials for a local newsletter or short stories published in a writer's magazine, put it on display! It will serve as a daily reminder that yes, you are a real writer.
Note: I have only published one novella, but I HAVE had several other books printed for myself. Two in particular are of special meaning to me. And looking at those books, even though no one else will ever read them, reminds me of my dream of getting books into hundreds and thousands of people's hands someday. And that gets me in the mood to write and do all the author platform work I need to do daily.
4) Writing Craft/Publishing Books on Display
It should go without saying that you should be reading and rereading books on writing, marketing and publishing (especially if you're going the self-pub route). Now's your chance to use them for more than just reading purposes!
Similarly to your own works, you can put them on a bookshelf or stack them creatively next to your laptop. They'll look cool, feel professional, and be within easy reach for referencing during all this writing you're gonna suddenly feel inspired to do.
5) Your Writing Equipment
As a writer, you have to have so many pieces of equipment - a laptop, a tablet, a printer, paper for printing (if you're taking pictures, recording pod casts or making videos for promotion, you'll also need your camera, microphone, lighting equipment, etc). Where the heck do you put it all?!
How about stacking them artistically on a cheap stack of shelves from Ikea or Amazon? Make them easily available and visible from your writing spot. Then add in those splashes of color and personality we talked about earlier. Now you're inspired AND organized. Two for one!
6) Your Story Board or Outlines
Nothing is more inspirational (or helpful) to an author than to be able to see your ideas for your story while you're writing. This can also look incredibly professional when displayed and can spruce up any writing space.
Write up your bullet points on colorful index cards or with pretty calligraphy and tack them to a cheap cork board. Or print out your outline in an actual timeline and run it across the wall.
You can also display other visuals from your WIP (character portraits, aesthetics, etc.). Or you can use the next idea...
7) Vision Boards
Putting all of your visual stimulants for your dreams of being a professional writer not only looks cool. It also helps you envision exactly what you want. And if you can envision it, you can better achieve it!
You can also do this with your WIP. Go through your Pinterest boards and find pictures that make you want to sit down and write this story - aesthetics, landscape photography, celebrity lookalikes, sketches of fantasy creatures or races, quotes from your story, names of your exotic realms written in calligraphy, whatever!
Then put arrange these pictures artistically on one giant piece of cardboard, slap it into a HUGE frame and hang it on the wall! Or if that's too expensive (writer budget's suck!), just stick with the piece of cardboard or get a cork board.
8) Writing Quotes on Plaques
Perhaps the best way to be continuously inspired is to surround yourself with quotes that make you want to write - especially from authors you admire. Remembering that every creative person struggles, even the famous ones, will help you on those days when writer's block is getting you down or you're feeling stuck with your author platform.
This is also one of the easiest fixes for making your writing space look more professional. Just print off a favorite quote in a fancy font, stick it in a dollar store frame, and slap it on the wall or set it by your laptop. Bam! Cheap AND effective.
9) Your Writing Goal/Dreams
This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. And every writer should do this. What is your goal as a writer? What do you want to accomplish through your writing? What do you see for yourself as a business person (since, again, writing is a business) in the next year? The next five years? The next decade?
Write this down and hang it up! It can be in a frame, on a canvas, burned into a wooden plaque, whatever. Just hang it where you can see it and read it every time you sit down to write. People who come into your living space will see that you have actual goals for your dreams, and they will respect that (there will always be exceptions; don't mind them).
Seeing your writing goals will also help to hold you accountable to yourself. Not feeling like writing today? Have the time but would rather binge watch on Netflix? That goal will give you the proverbial kick in the pants you need to get off your lazy behind and start writing that book!
Looking and feeling professional somehow adds a zing to writing. No matter how small or seemingly "unprofessional" the writing space, it's YOUR WRITING SPACE. So let it look like one!
Every single one of these ideas for spicing up your writing space has a dual purpose in mind:
A) To make you look/feel more professional, and
B) To motivate/inspire you to actually write.
There is NOTHING wrong with sitting on your bed to write. However, what you surround yourself with on that bed will change your mood. Being surrounded by piles of laundry and messy stacks of papers can make you feel sleepy, bored, and very much not into writing. But try organizing your bedside table with your favorite writing books, a file folder for those papers, and a writer-quote-mug filled with pens.
Maybe your only writing space is the kitchen table. Great! A writer friend of mine writes at hers - and she "professionalizes" by hanging boxes, baskets and shelves on the wall next to the table that are both decorative and organizational. (To be honest, I'm SO envious!) She is also a mother of two little ones, so be encouraged - if she can do it, so can you!
Next week, I'll be sharing a (much shorter) post filled with pictures of my current writing space and how I've used these very ideas to make it look and feel more professional.
(I may also have some exciting news to share...We'll have to wait and see, won't we?)